Qualia Computing? In brief, epiphenomenalism cannot be true. Qualia, it turns out, must have a causally relevant role in forward-propelled organisms, for otherwise natural selection would have had no way of recruiting it. I propose that the reason why consciousness was recruited by natural selection is found in the tremendous computational power that it afforded to the real-time world simulations it instantiates through the use of the nervous system. More so, the specific computational horse-power of consciousness is phenomenal binding –the ontological union of disparate pieces of information by becoming part of a unitary conscious experience that synchronically embeds spaciotemporal structure. While phenomenal binding is regarded as a mere epiphenomenon (or even as a totally unreal non-happening) by some, one needs only look at cases where phenomenal binding (partially) breaks down to see its role in determining animal behavior.
Once we recognize the computational role of consciousness, and the causal network that links it to behavior, a new era will begin. We will (1) characterize the various values of qualia in terms of their computational properties, and (2) systematically explore the state-space of possible conscious experiences.
(1) will enable us to recruit the new qualia varieties we discover thanks to (2) so as to improve the capabilities of our minds. This increased cognitive power will enable us to do (2) more efficiently. This positive-feedback loop is perhaps the most important game-changer in the evolution of consciousness in the cosmos.
We will go from cognitive sciences to actual consciousness engineering. And then, nothing will ever feel the same.